There are people who aim to present themselves as highly-skilled professionals, and those who intend to make contribution to their favorite sphere in each art. There have been always many talented jazz dance representatives on theatrical and concert stages, but just several of them marked their names in the history of jazz as an art form. Frank Hatchett is one of them. From school age till the last days of his life an artist devoted his time to talking, teaching, improving, writing and performing jazz as an art form. The contribution of Frank Hatchett to jazz is huge as he developed new jazz dance technique VOP and greatly influenced jazz performance on stage and screens.
Formation and Development of Jazz Dance
Jazz is known as experimental and free form of dance. It originates from Africa, however being born in America. At the beginning of the 16th century, many Africans were forced to leave their homes in order to serve the foreign land. Moreover, they brought a part of their traditions and culture, which they also and preserved in music and dance. The first jazz dance movements included stamping, shuffling of bare feet, clapping of hands against the body (Ralabate 2008). Marshall Stearns called them vernacular dance (Ralabate 2008). However, it gained certain popularity among the white population.
The first white performers of jazz used to black their faces and improvise in grotesque manner their slavers way of entertainment. In 1789, the first professional white dancer of jazz appeared. His name was John Durang. Since that time jazz dance has been developing quickly and rapidly gaining its popularity in parallel with jazz music. At the beginning of the 20th century, this form of art reached to the peak of its popularity.
The influences of ragtime music, tap, swing and even acrobatic movements on jazz dance are visible within 1900-1940 years. As soon as jazz dancers began to participate in Broadway musical and theatric scenes, the need of well-trained dancers intensified. Such outstanding choreographers and trainers for musical and theatrical performances as Helen Tamiris and Hanya Holm demanded more skills form their jazz dance learners. Further, the elements of ballet passed to jazz while at the same time some jazz movements integrated into ballet due to the effort of George Balanchine. The emergence of many new elements required from jazz dancers to show highly professional technique and balance between different styles.
The middle of 20th century added more fusion to the jazz dance. Katherine Dunham involved ethnical African dance elements and West Indies movements to her jazz dance technique. Within 1950, the elements of rocknroll and social dances, such as twist, pony, monkey, disco, became visible in jazz dance classes. Jerome Robbins mixed his jazz movements with ballet and theatrical forms. However, Lack Cole, who is also known as a father of jazz, made the most incredible contribution to the given form of art. He added the elements of modern dance, African and Caribbean dances, bharata natyam and ballet to his jazz dance performance (Ralabate 2008). Many other famous jazz dance followers of the end of 20th century, including Frank Hatchett, were inspired by his innovative and creative approach.
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Since 1980 till present days there have been many hybrid movements, which originated from urban center whereas wide range of styles joined the jazz technique. The free style of this genre does not put any boarders for its performers creativeness. Thus, they widely use their imagination. Nowadays, jazz dance is a mixture of all contemporary dances, tap, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, and classic jazz dance. The most distinguished figures in this genre of dance within last 30ty years were Frank Hatchett, Joe Tremaine, Twyla Tharp, and Lynn Simonson (Ralabate 2008). All of them made their own innovative contribution to the genre development and left significant sign in the history of jazz dance as an art form.
Biography and Dance Career of Frank Hatchett
Frank Hatchett was born and raised in musical family, state Massachusetts, the USA. His father professionally played the piano, mother sang gospels, and sister visited dance classes. The chore of Frank to accompany his sister to the dance class played returning role in his further jazz dance career. Being extremely shy to perform in group, he took the private lessons first but soon danced in pair with his sister.
Only the first step in dance career was difficult for Hatchett. The rest required much training, time and effort which immediately demonstrated corresponding results. After leaving school, he entered the University Connecticut (Benedict n.d.), but soon, he moved to Philadelphia to be taught by legendary Eleanor Harris. Then, the dancer was hired for the first production, finished his studying and opened his own dance studio.
It is worth noting that his teaching traits manifested in Hatched at school age, when he taught his neighbors to dance in the basement of his grandmother. After the artists moving to New York in 1980, his career developed rapidly. Hatchett went to national touring, co-established Broadway Dance Center, published his ideas on dance topic and taught people to dance in the entire world. Among the most known learners of dancer were such celebrities as Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Vanessa Williams, Brooke Shields, and Olivia Newton-John (Benedict n.d.). However, creative and energetic Hatchett continued to develop his dancing skills. Inspired by Jack Cole, the father of jazz dance, he took classes of African, Caribbean and East-Indian styles as well as developed his own jazz dance technique VOP.
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Concerning VOP, Hatchett used to say that it is marriage between music and movement (Benedict n.d.). As all modern jazz styles it combined and mixed many old and new movements, but the emphasis was at the confidence, character and unique energy of its performers. Frank Hatchett taught his students to have technique, feel the music and use the motion to dance in VOP jazz style (Semko 2015). Later, he co-authored the related book titled Frank Hatchetts Jazz Dance (Benedict n.d.). In 2002, Hatchett received honorable Fred Astraire Award (Benedict n.d.). However, career success and teaching celebrities did not make Hatchett arrogant as he continued to allow everyone to know that the art world is open to them (Flynn 2013). If someone lacked money but was talented, Hatchett could finance his or her study (Flynn 2013). The reason is that in his life he had two families, namely his biological family and his dance family, according to the opinion of his relative and student, Kimberly Horrington who supported Frank Hatchett during his last days in December 2013 (Flynn 2013).
Frank Hatchett dedicated his entire life to dance stage. He continually learnt new styles by himself and shared his knowledge with his students. He participated, toured, performed, wrote and even made training videos about dances. His cheerfulness, energy and spirit spread from him and inspired people around him. Being the most compelling choreographer of the modern days and developing unique jazz style, Frank Hatchett made significant contribution to the development of jazz as an art form.
Significance of Frank Hatchetts Contribution in the Jazz as an Art Form
Every dance form becomes an art when it has its choreographers, dancers and audience. Jazz dance rooted from African social dances and mixed in its style different dance techniques, including street and social ones. However, as soon as its aim was to perform more than to socialize, it was recognized as an art form. Since the beginning of 20th century, jazz dancers were no longer talented amateurs. They were highly-trained in ballet, modern and tap (Crawford n.d.). The aim of contemporary jazz dance is to perform at the high professional level, which is the distinguishing feature of any art form.
Jazz dance and African music have developed in different ways since 18th century. The Bachelor in Art, Benna Crawford asserts that Jazz dance is a uniquely American art form with influence from everywhere( n.d.). The opportunity to mix and blend even incompatible at first sing movements depends on the experimental free style philosophy, which is the foundation of both jazz dance and music. Jack Cole, known as father of theatrical jazz, Walton and Giordano, distinguished for standardizing dance terminology, as well as Frank Hatchett, recognized as talented jazz performer in theatre, television, movie, concerts and VOP jazz dance developer, made significant contribution to the official establishment of jazz as an art form. Later Giordano founded annual Jazz Dance World Congress, which advocated jazz dance as respected entertainment form of art in 20th century (Semko 2015). Frank Hatchett was an official educator within many years.
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In his career, Frank Hatchett didnt choose to perform jazz but he strove to develop his favorite dance style. He co-established dancing studio, which was later renamed Broadway Dance Center in New York City, toured with teaching of his new jazz dance technique around the world, published articles and a book, provided numerous training videos for his followers. The aim of the artist was not to realize himself to a full extent, but to develop and develop jazz as a deal of his life.
In addition to own performance, the artists taught celebrities to present jazz at stage and screen. He participated in TV concerts and shows to make jazz even more popular and recognized. Moreover, Hatchett never missed the opportunity to share the philosophy of this dance with others. Profit was not the aim of Frank Hatchett. He worked for improvements and development of jazz dance in the 20th century and its world recognition as an art form.
The significance of Frank Hatchett in Jazz dance as an art form development is huge. The artist had much enthusiasm to share his knowledge and experience with others. He performed jazz at big stage participating in theater and concerts. He made this genre of jazz popular due to TV shows and training videos. He taught celebrities and average people to perform jazz as an art form where it is possible.
Searching for improvement of his technique, Hatchett developed his own style of jazz dance called VOP. It combines classic and modern trends in dances and requires from its performers to pass feeling and a lot of energy in their show. To make it distinguished and knowledgeable, Hatchett published a book about the related subject and screened teaching videos. With the appearance of Frank Hatchett in jazz dance history, this kind of art became more popular, developed and distinguished throughout America and abroad.